Oracle v. Google: Winners and losers

Google was vindicated over claims of patent infringment today, but let's take a closer look at some of the winners and losers in this case so far.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

After more than a week of deliberations, the jury in Oracle v. Google finally came back with a verdict over patent infringement on Wednesday.

There is an obvious winner and an obvious loser here, but let's reflect on some of the major wins and losses that have emerged thanks to proceedings at the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco over the last several weeks.

See also: Jury strikes a blow against software patentsGoogle kicks Oracle in its patent teethJury clears Google of infringing on Oracle patentsOracle v. Google jury stumbling over tech terminology, illnessCopyrights, APIs, and Oracle vs Google | CNET: Complete trial coverage


Google: The obvious winner from the patent round and the less-than-obvious in the copyright round. When the copyright verdict was announced a few weeks ago, the jury could only come to a partial verdict after nearly a week of deliberations. The then-12 jurors ruled that Google had infringed upon Oracle's copyrights over the 37 Java APIs -- acquired among others with the Sun Microsystems acquisition in 2010. However, the jury could not conclude whether or not it was a case of fair use. Based on tweets from the courtroom on Wednesday after the jury was free to talk to the press, it looks like the vote was split 9-3 in favor of Google. Google moved for a mistrial, and the decision from Judge William Alsup hasn't been revealed yet.

Nevertheless, on patents, Google was a clear cut winner as the now-10 person jury ruled that Google didn't do anything illegal when it came to the Dalvik Virtual Machine on Android. Also according to tweeting reporters from the courtroom, it looks like only the foreman was the hold out this round.

Jonathan Schwartz: Burned deeply by the Sun-Oracle merger in 2010, Schwartz became Google's star witness in this case. He arguably did more for Google's case in one hour on the stand than anyone had done in this lawsuit in the last two years. His arguments about open source and asserting that Sun had no ground to sue Google must have left an impression with the jury -- and Oracle's lawyers as they did everything they could to preclude his testimony and ban him from returning during the patent phase.

Nevertheless, Schwartz might have won today anyway, not just in a battle to promote open source technology -- but also to get back at Oracle after his departure from Sun amid the close of the acquisition.


Oracle: Although it looked like Oracle might have garnered a partial verdict over copyrights on Tuesday, there was no question of where Oracle stood on patent infringement according to this jury as it unanimously voted against Larry Ellison's global enterprise.

Furthermore, as the plaintiff in this lawsuit running two years and counting, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company is being left even more red-faced considering this was once touted as a $6 billion case. Over time, Oracle has dropped expectations of damages to $1 billion and even a few hundred million, but it became apparent that Oracle would be lucky to even claim statutory damages (a maximum of $150,000) over the nine lines of code in the rangeCheck method and test files from the copyright phase. Oracle's lawyers have been trying to plead a case for infringer's profits, but now it looks uncertain if Oracle will obtain anything out of this at all -- besides a hefty legal bill.

The Jury: The evidence in this case was extremely technical and tricky -- especially when it came to the patent phase. This jury was screened to exclude anyone who had a technical background. On the one hand, that offers the potential for a more objective jury. On the other, it leaves them terribly confused, which became apparent during both rounds of deliberations with multiple notes asking for testimony readbacks and basically questions of how they should look at evidence, on which the judge couldn't help them.

By the tail end, it actually became more like watching a horror movie as the audience (the press, the public, and the rest of the courtroom) knew so much more about this trial and where it was headed regardless, while the jury had no idea. For example, the jury didn't know about the question over the validity of the '104 patent, which could have ended up negating that whole part of the case anyway. Furthermore, the jury didn't know they had been cut loose from the copyrights phase of the trial. So for several days, the public knew that the jury could have gone home immediately if they had found for Google sooner, but they didn't.

Judge William Alsup: The formidable federal judge has had a lot to deal with over the last two years in this case, but by the beginning of this week (if not sooner), Alsup was looking extremely annoyed and exasperated by both the legal teams and the jury. Alsup repeatedly had to tell the jury that it was for them to decide over certain pieces of evidence, reminding them of their roles as jurors to make decisions. Furthermore, Alsup scolded attorneys from both sides as he said once that he wasn't getting help from either of them as neither side seemed to be able to agree on anything.

At one point during proceedings, Alsup even hinted that he thought this whole lawsuit was questionable to begin with, telling both sides on Monday that he was "pointing his fingers at both of them" for thinking that patent suits were easier than they might have expected. We all know that isn't the case now.

However, this case isn't over yet. Alsup still needs to rule whether or not APIs are even copyrightable in the first place, and there are inevitably going to be appeals in the future. The court -- without the jury as they were dismissed on Wednesday -- will resume proceedings next Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend.

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